Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

With Honor Every Day Is a Memorial Day at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Where Our Nation Pays Quite Tribute to Those Who Served

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

With Honor Every Day Is a Memorial Day at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Where Our Nation Pays Quite Tribute to Those Who Served

Article excerpt

OVERCAST with sporadic soft rain, the first Monday in May was appropriately funereal, and a day when 14 persons were buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. These earthly remains joined the 122,800 bodies already interred here.

A strong breeze kept the two flags that were positioned at half-staff running off the poles like windsocks. There were occasional periods of sunshine and roaming deer.

The 14 burials were fewer than normal for a Monday. Three of the dead were World War II veterans, and three others the widows of men who'd served in the war. Reburials they call them, with the spouse interred in the same grave, on top, with the name of the most recently deceased chiseled on the opposite side of the tombstone. It saves much-needed space. Another was the wife of a Second World War vet. He will join her after his death. Five of those buried were from the Korean War period, including a man whose body was brought here from Arlington, Texas. The two others were veterans of the peacetime military. In honor of the holiday tomorrow, here's a roll call of the 14 persons buried on this first Monday in May: Gino Rotellini, a peacetime Air Force veteran from St. Louis, buried with the assist of a two-man honor guard from Scott Air Force Base; Robert Giltner, St. Louis, World War II; Ervin East, St. Louis, Korean War; Doris Cass, St. Louis, widow of a World War II veteran; Max Seitz, St. Louis, Korea; Lorraine Shadley and Marcella Wilson, both of St. Louis, widows of World War II veterans; William Eswine, St. Louis, peacetime military; Leo Minardi, Ste. Genevieve, World War II; Robert Daugherty, Arlington, Texas, Korea; Eleanor Fabick, St. Louis, wife of a World War II veteran; James McCloskey, St. Louis, World War II; Noel Kazzee, O'Fallon, Mo., Korea; Robert Bonds, St. Louis, Korea. So it was, just another Monday at Jefferson Barracks, the fourth largest burial ground in the federal system. It's so peaceful here - save for the muted noise of the traffic on Interstate 255 and the keening sounds of a squad-size swarm of men with gas-powered weed trimmers - that the resident deer behave like dairy cattle. They look up and then deliberately go back to what they were doing, which was more or less ignoring the passing humans. That is, when they're not stamping through the graveyards, leaving tell-tale hoof prints in the soft earth. Or crashing through a special memorial service for a mass grave that includes World War II Americans and soldiers from the Netherlands. Of course, they dodge the ever-present rider lawn mowers, which sweep up and down through the rows of 100,071 headstones. In season, the lawn mowing and weed cutting is a seemingly never-ending job. On a typical Monday or Friday, usually the busiest days of the week, as many as 30 burials take place here. It's a volume that calls for all the logistical prowess the cemetery's 50 full-time staff can muster. The daily average at Jefferson Barracks is 16 burials. The busiest time here came the day before New Year's, when there were 42 burials. Not surprisingly, it's reaching a critical mass, with the youngest of the World War II draftees turning 70 and the median age 74 for veterans of that war. The World War II generation represents something of a pig-in-a-python bulge, with the mass of Korean War vets right behind them. According to Paul Sherbo of the Veterans Affairs office in Denver, as of July 1 of last year there were 3,046,000 veterans ages 70 to 74, and an additional 1,984,000 who are 75 to 79. The median age of all male veterans - 57.4 - shows just how old this population is. The median age for female veterans is 45.1 years old. By mid-morning this Monday, nearly 10 burial processions into the day, 15 white-tail deer grazed in grasses off a wooded swale. It's down a steep slant from a relatively new section of graves, at Grant Drive and Truman Drive. The Jefferson Barracks deer have become so well known that poaching is something of a problem. …

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